Note: As a female Mormon Republican (and recently graduated house-wife), I have a special interest in this topic. I grew up watching my grandmother, Olene Walker, participate in Utah politics, and I’ve always thought I want to be just like her. When she became the first female Governor of Utah, I was especially proud. It was not until I was older that I realized the obstacles my grandmother faced, including how she became governor when the man before her went on to other things and how she ‘stopped’ being governor when the Republican Party decided to nominate a man for her position instead. For the first time it became strikingly clear that perhaps there are limitations women face unique to our state and culture. This is the motivation for my research.


The Utah Republican Party has a deficit of women representatives compared to the percentage of Utah women who vote Republican. The 2010 State Delegate Republican Convention exhibited this gender gap, having only 25% female delegates. This paper will analyze the discrepancy, probing for the existence of political structural barriers, as well as of cultural barriers caused by the predominant LDS faith within the Republican Party. The data comes from interviews with several 2010 delegates from randomly selected neighborhood caucuses in the Provo/Orem, Utah area.

Within this sample, women face structural and cultural limitations. Female caucus attendance may influence how many women attempt to be delegates, but it does not have a significant influence on how many women succeed. Women feel they are more likely to become delegates by being well acquainted versus through their nomination speech, while the opposite holds true for men. The majority of female delegates interviewed felt more women are not delegates because they are too busy with home/family and are intimidated/lack experience, while the majority of male delegates interviewed felt the discrepancy is merely by chance and women are less inclined/choose not to be involved. Women are mistakenly viewed as politically apathetic and/or lacking experience because they have followed the cultural norm of high value on home and family.  This inadvertently results in few female delegates.

Even though The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints [1] officially declares nonpartisanship (Wald and Calhoun-Brown 2011), most Mormons identify as Republicans (Wald and Calhoun-Brown 2011; Campbell and Monson 2007; Fox 2003; Magleby and Scruggs 1993). Utah, home to the LDS church’s headquarters, has the highest concentration of Mormons comprising 70-75% of the population (Wald and Calhoun-Brown 2011; Campbell and Monson 2007; Magleby and Scruggs 1993; Chadwick and Garrett 1998). Since today only “one in ten [Mormons] identify themselves as liberal” (Wald and Calhoun-Brown 2011, 301), the Republican Party commands Utah.

There are notable repercussions from the Utah Republican monopoly, namely the lack of female leadership. Specifically, the May 2010 Utah Republican State Convention boasted 75% male delegates and only 25% female delegates (Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy 2010; Utah Foundation 2010). Political gender gaps have generally been attributed to insufficient resources and experience, as well as traditional gender roles (Burrell 1994; Campbell and Wolbrecht 2006; Monson and Riding 2009). However, because Utah Republican affiliation is so closely entwined with religious beliefs, the political gender gap could also be affected by the predominant religious culture. Currently, the literature only addresses LDS conservatism, their emphasis on civic participation, and how this drives the Utah Republican identity (Wald and Calhoun-Brown 2011; Campbell and Monson 2007; Magleby and Scruggs 1993). The extent to which LDS culture additionally affects the gender gap in the Utah Republican Party remains unstudied.

This paper addresses how the LDS culture and the structural aspects of the Republican Party affect the number of female delegates within the Utah Republican caucus system.  Interviews with male and female delegates show how traditional gender roles are still highly valued within the religious culture, which affects political participation. The findings reflect my assertions that the conservative emphasis on the “home” for women makes female political leadership less valued within LDS culture and that the structure of the Republican Party is exclusionary towards women.

Literature Review: Mormon Republicans, Cultural Effects, and Structural Limitations
Utah culture is closely interwoven with the widely held LDS beliefs because two-thirds of the population affiliates with the LDS faith (Campbell and Monson 2007, 105). As “the most religiously homogeneous state in the nation” (Magleby and Scruggs 1993, 35), Utah represents a prime environment to analyze religious culture. It should be noted that for the purposes of this study, merely referring to the LDS religion would not suffice. Like their official declaration of political neutrality, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also officially believes men and women are equals despite their different responsibilities  (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 1995). However, the LDS culture, while based on beliefs, is influenced by far more than doctrine. Therefore, as used in this study, ‘LDS culture’ refers to the behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs generally held by the Mormon community and is not understood to be official LDS doctrine.

Conservatism is a key part of the LDS culture (Campbell and Monson 2003; Campbell and Monson 2007; Fox 2003), which affects accepted gender roles. Utah is “overwhelmingly Republican largely on the basis of cultural conservatism” (Wald and Calhoun-Brown 2011, 302) among the Mormon community. A pertinent example is that the “Latter-day Saints generally take a traditionalist view regarding the role of women in society” (Campbell and Monson 2007, 111).  The importance of family within the religion is largely understood culturally as adhering to the traditional family structure. Campbell and Monson (2007) note that Mormons have been slower to liberalize their gender role views than Southern Baptists or Catholics. They found Mormon views on gender roles in the 1990s equaled those of the 1970s national average (ibid). Because the Republican Party has “position[ed] itself as the party of cultural conservatism” (Campbell and Monson 2007, 110) it has captured the majority of the LDS vote. The “strong, statistically significant relationship between activity in the LDS church and political conservatism” (Fox 2003, 279) has solidified Republican dominance in Utah.

The 2010 delegate surveys further showcase the link between the Republican Party and Mormons. The Utah Republican State Delegate survey affirms that religious affiliation with the LDS church is extremely high for Republicans; 90.4% of the delegates responded with LDS/Mormon religious preferences. When asked about religious activity level, 88.8% responded as very active (Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy 2010, 15). A survey of delegates sponsored by the Utah Foundation found that only 28% of the Democratic delegates responded as very active LDS (Utah Foundation 2010, 20).

While research on Mormon Republicans has been growing, the existing male/female discrepancy within the relationship has not been analyzed. The literary foundation for this paper, therefore, is lacking in modern, applicable research. However, despite this limitation, a 1998 study by Chadwick and Garret shares cultural gender expectations involving Utah LDS women and ventures outside the home (Chadwick and Garrett 1998). Although many factors have changed since 1998, their findings about LDS women and employment are still meaningful and valid as a cultural explanation that could similarly be applied to the political arena.

In the study, Chadwick and Garret assert, “LDS theology contains additional beliefs that strongly encourage women, especially mothers, to remain out of the labor force” (Chadwick and Garrett 1998, 406). [2] Their research shows that the strongly religious are significantly more likely to be stay-at-home housewives primarily due to religious values and family responsibilities (Chadwick and Garrett 1998, 412, 415). Furthermore, they hypothesize that “Christian/LDS doctrine and practices, including pro-family values, encourage married women to focus on their family responsibilities as opposed to the development of a career” (Chadwick and Garrett 1998, 420). Their findings significantly support this hypothesis.

Chadwick and Garrett’s (1998) study reveals empirically the value strongly religious LDS women place on staying in the home at the expense of other ambitions. While their research notes that LDS beliefs ‘encourage’ women to focus on the home, they do not delve into the cultural implications of those understood beliefs. Meaning, if it is understood within the culture that the most strongly religious women are stay-at-home housewives, what does that say about women who couple their family responsibilities with pursuits outside the home? This presents the idea that in order to maintain high value within the culture (as the strongly religious), perhaps LDS women abstain from roles outside the home that are seen as less valuable. An aim of this paper is to measure if this cultural undercurrent affects the low female percentage of Utah State delegates.

Additionally, the existing literature argues that the LDS church members’ required intense church involvement cultivates strong civic participation and the skills to do so (Wald and Calhoun Brown 2011; Campbell and Monson 2007; Magleby and Scruggs 1993).  Men and women within the LDS church face the same rigorous requirements to qualify as fully active members. As a lay church, members fill the leadership positions within each LDS meetinghouse; this is largely how scholars see strict church participation as a conduit to civic skills. However, another relevant finding from Chadwick and Garrett’s (1998) study of Utah LDS women and employment is “significantly more housewives and women who worked part-time had a church position than women employed full time…Housewives and part-time employed women held significantly more responsible positions than those employed full time” (417). In other words, the women typically holding the greatest religious leadership positions (that translate into skills capable of political mobilization) are held by the women who self-reported staying in the home to raise a family and support their religious values at a rate of eighty-eight percent (Chadwick and Garrett 1998, 415). Therefore, where a visible religious calling may benefit an LDS man in becoming a delegate at the caucuses, the same might not necessarily hold true for women.

This data suggests that gender affects civic participation independent from religious activity if the most active women, thus the most skilled according to scholars’ theories, are the women who are missing in the political arena. Research would therefore be more valid targeting LDS men and women’s political activity separately. In the Utah Voter Poll 2010 Delegate survey, when asked about employment, only 117 (9.3%) responded as “homemaker.” The survey had 316 females (25%) who served as delegates, which implies the female delegate majority were employed or otherwise involved outside the home in some aspect (13, 16). While we are limited in knowing if Chadwick and Garrett’s (1998) findings remain in force today, the small percentage of homemakers among the 2010 state delegates insinuates that they most likely are. Perhaps the cues women receive from LDS culture differ from men in that their religiosity is conveyed by turning inwards toward the home, as seen by the high value placed on family and homemaking by the strongly religious women. If so, then opting out of extensive civic participation to maintain the home reflects how the Utah political gender discrepancy is closely entwined with LDS culture. 

Besides these cultural overtones, the very framework of the Republican Party may also contribute to the limited number of female delegates. Feminist scholars have been quick to associate women’s exclusion from politics to a hierarchical structure embedded in society (Swers 2002; Burrell 1994). Within the prevailing literature, the lack of female representation is attributed to structural limitations instead of a woman’s choice; meaning, women would like to be involved but something about the system makes it so they cannot participate. Barbara Burrell (1994) argues that women were first socialized to feel apart from the political sphere and then discouraged and prevented from following the avenues necessary to achieve a political career. The consequences of this precedent are evident in the fact that “politics remains an overwhelmingly male profession” (Campbell and Wolbrecht 2006, 233). Defenders of the feminist approach ascertain that if half the population is limited in the decision making process, the institution is not truly representative (Burrell 1994, 6).

Although the lack of women in politics nationwide can hardly be blamed entirely on the Republican Party (especially since female representatives remain a minority overall), research does suggest that the Republican Party is more biased. In an analysis of survey questions about presidential candidates designed to test social norms regarding gender, Monson and Riding’s (2009) data suggests, “that in the Republican Party, a bias against women candidates does exist” (6). While they carefully note that this could be largely due to the political landscape at the time, it does little to dispel the notion of Republican female exclusion. This trend is particularly evident in Utah; a survey by Dan Jones and Associates of the 2010 Party Delegates and Voters showed that while the Republican delegates were 75% male and 25% female, the Democrat delegates were 57% male and 43% female (Utah Foundation 2010). The structural reasons why the gender balance in the Utah Democratic Party and the Utah Republican Party differs so greatly exceeds the scope of this study. However, one cultural difference this study can measure, as mentioned before, is how the surveys show 88.8% of Republican delegates are active in the LDS church, compared to only 28% of the Democratic delegates (Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy 2010, 15; Utah Foundation 2010, 20). This gives credence to the theorized cultural limitations women face within the Republican Party besides the usual structural barriers.

The Utah Caucus System
The interplay of gender, religious culture, and politics on an intimate level is what makes the delegate caucus system exceptional grounds for this study. Because “female representativeness in political institutions [is] still proportionately low” (Monson and Riding 2009, 6) across the board, the caucus system targets a specific aspect of the political institution that incorporates the effects of LDS culture and structural limitations. This unique system allows people to select delegates who then vote for the candidates. The caucus’s local aspect is essential in capturing the role of LDS culture within a political environment. Also, the delegate position is known as one of leadership and importance; no other state “regularly allocate[s] as much power to locally elected delegates as does the Utah process” (Magleby and Scruggs 1993, i).

The Utah caucus system works by dividing the state into precincts, which are the size of a few neighborhoods. These precincts then hold individual caucuses, where those within the precinct limits can attend. The caucuses resemble New England town meetings where the business is conducted face-to-face (Magleby and Scruggs 1993, 1). While participants can run for various positions at a caucus, including caucus leadership, this study focuses exclusively on the state delegate process. To become a delegate, an individual must be nominated. Once nominated, the person gives a short speech about why they feel they should be chosen. Those in attendance then vote on the nominated individuals and those with the most votes win. The number of delegates per caucus is determined by precinct. The delegates then represent their precinct at the state convention “where they may determine the nominees for U.S. House and Senate, Governor, and other statewide elected officials” (Magleby and Scruggs 1993, 1).

Because delegates hold such power in determining the outcome of state politics, the percentage of male delegates versus female delegates at the 2010 Utah Republican State Convention is noteworthy. With 75% of the delegates being male, gender bias should be considered (Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy 2010; Utah Foundation 2010). The lack of female delegates is especially puzzling next to voter turn out surveys. A sample survey of active Republican voters in 2010 revealed that 45% were male and 55% were female (Utah Foundation 2010). This challenges the notion that women are simply choosing not to participate politically and demands a deeper look at the delegate discrepancy. Furthermore, in a 1992 study of the Utah neighborhood caucuses, Magleby (1993) noted that women were more likely than men to attend caucuses; women comprised 53% of the Republican caucus attendees even though the Republican delegates were 63% male (Magleby and Scruggs 1993, 33-34).

Magleby and Scruggs (1993) findings also show that LDS culture influences more than just gender dynamics by geatly impacting the political system directly. Two key elements of the caucus structure that introduces LDS culture are face-to-face interaction and the fact that it takes place within a neighborhood where most of the attendees are already well acquainted. They label this the “Good Neighbor Factor,” which is influential because “most voting districts, largely by geographic coincidence, are made up of two or three Mormon wards” [3] (Magleby and Scruggs 1993, 21). Because church activity is so intensive, these people are likely to come in contact quite frequently and also be involved in multiple levels of school and social interactions. Magleby and Scruggs (1993) report throughout their research they noted that caucus attendees often vote for a delegate not because of their political preferences, but because they are a neighbor or a church leader (22-23). This result is significant since the majority of visible LDS church callings are held by men; it also suggests the importance of religious standing and cultural assimilation in becoming a delegate.

Therefore, from the briefly reviewed literature on Mormon Republicans, traditional gender roles in LDS culture, and the Utah caucus system, I propose the following hypotheses about the small proportion of Republican female state delegates.
H1: The LDS cultural emphasis on the “home” for women makes female political leadership less valued.
H2: The structure of the Republican Party is exclusionary to women.
In effect, women not running for the delegate position would reflect H1. Conversely, women running, or desiring to run, but not being chosen as a delegate would reflect H2.

Data and Methodology
Data for this paper comes from interviews conducted with delegates (both male and female) from precincts located in the cities of Orem and Provo, Utah. The delegate system is ideal to measure for the effects of LDS culture because the political interaction takes place in largely close-knit neighborhoods. The cities of Provo and Orem will be selected for data retrieval mainly for their close proximity to Brigham Young University (BYU). Because BYU, an LDS church school, is located in Provo (with Orem being the next city over) the population is highly saturated with LDS members and therefore LDS culture. The conservative nature of the two cities supports the theories at hand.

In order to randomly select individuals (male and female), I obtained the list of 2010 Provo and Orem delegates from the Utah Republican Party. From the list I coded each delegate by gender according to their name and determine the percentage of female delegates within each precinct so I can ensure a variety of caucus scenarios in my random sample. After compiling the random sample, I interviewed two delegates from the first four precincts in all three groups.  To avoid leading questions regarding my hypotheses, no mention of LDS culture or gender was explicitly mentioned at the onset of the interview. The delegate interview questions can be found in the appendix. From the interviews, I looked for answers referring to religious and cultural reasons for political activity/inactivity. I also analyzed how the particular selection process or structure of the meeting might have presented barriers or limitations to women.

Data Analysis
Data was gathered from interviews conducted with male and female delegates in Provo and Orem, Utah precincts. The majority of interviewees mentioned the LDS religion or BYU in their response without prompting. I will note, though, that in the interview introduction I said I was with the political science department at BYU. How this claim affected their responses or comfort level in discussing religious influences compared to omitting any connection to BYU exceeds the scope of this study.

The randomly selected sample came from the 2010 delegate list provided by the Utah Republican Party. After sorting the delegates by city, the 280 delegates from Provo and Orem’s combined 100 precincts were pulled to create a new list. I then coded each delegate by gender according to their name, 1 for female, 0 for male. I skipped the name if I was unable to infer the gender.

Next, I determined the percentage of female delegates within each precinct. This allowed me to stratify the data into three groups for comparison. The first group included precincts without female delegates, the second included precincts with a percentage between 0-50% of female delegates, and the third included precincts with more than 50% female delegates. [4] Of the total 100 precincts in the study, 49% were in group one (all male), 38% were in group two, and 11% were in group three. The stratified groups ensured variety in the random sample, as well as allowed me to measure for different attitudes among these three groups. Once the delegate list was ordered according to female delegate percentages, each precinct was assigned a computer-generated random number. I then took the first four precincts under group one, group two, and group three and contacted two delegates from each precinct. [5] Therefore, a potential pool of 24 delegates was randomly created, including men and women from precincts representing all three gender-varied groups.

However, this qualitative research method is limited by the difficulty of soliciting participation. Even though a precinct was randomly selected did not guarantee that those delegates were willing or available to be interviewed. For example, from the second group, Provo 07 precinct was randomly selected, yet one of the delegates had a phone number listed that was no longer in service. Therefore, this precinct was replaced by the next randomly selected precinct from group two. Furthermore, a man from Orem 19 precinct, which was part of group one, refused to be part of the study. Fortunately Orem 19 had three delegates, but these limitations still create an element of error. Additionally, one precinct from the third group only had one delegate, so that precinct was replaced by the next precinct on the random sample list. These limitations are reflected in the final sample size. After at least two attempts of contact to all 24 selected delegates, only 14 chose to participate. The breakdown by group was seven out of eight for group one, six out of eight for group two, and one out of eight for group three. Such a small sample size makes the results difficult to generalize; yet it still contributes to the discussion especially in the break down of which delegates are missing. This will be further addressed in the results section.

After the delegates were selected, the interview process was conducted via phone call. The interviewee was told that the interviewer was with the political science department at BYU and was interested in asking them about their experience at the last Republican caucus meeting. The interview questions were designed to find reasons for political activity/inactivity. The questions become more explicit about female involvement throughout the interview, with the final question asking for the interviewee’s perspective on the shortage of female delegates. A full interview guide can be found in the appendix.  The interviews were rich with religious and cultural reasoning, as well as assumptions about gender preferences.  In order to measure my findings, I coded each interview for references to the LDS religion, the Republican Party, and for anything related to gender. A limitation to this methodology was that the interviewer was also the coder [6]; however, for the study requirements this was permissible with the understanding of potential bias and error. Despite the inherent obstacles, the results contribute actual perspectives of the cultural and structural barriers that influence the number of female delegates within the Republican Party.

This research method by no means conclusively covers the gender dynamics within the LDS culture and the Utah Republican Party. It best serves as a qualitative snapshot and starting point for future research. Conclusions taken from these findings must be carefully kept from sweeping claims and over-generalizing. Perhaps the most glaring limitation to the research method is that while it does include male and female perspectives, all the individuals are delegates. The women in this study, therefore, have already overcome what LDS cultural barriers or political structural barriers may exist. While the delegates’ experiences are valuable, in light of the hypotheses they could almost be considered outliers within the predominant culture. New insights would be gained by interviewing women who attended the caucuses and chose not to run, or tried to run and were not successful. It is these women’s voices that are missing – in the political community, as well as in this paper. Yet due to present research constraints, the chosen methodology will have to suffice until more adequate time and resources are available.

Some other notable limitations that have already been mentioned include the small sample size and difficulty in staying true to the random sample. A result of these problems is that there are more male participants than female participants in this gender study. Another obstacle is that the research must rely on the memory of the individuals since the interviews were conducted roughly a year after the caucuses occurred. Despite these constraints, however, the qualitative method reveals existing attitudes that have been operationalized in women’s limited role as Utah Republican state delegates.

While qualitative results can have varied interpretations, the differences that exist between the interviewed men and women are obvious. The next step, then, is to consider whether or not cultural and structural influences have contributed to the outcomes. The research methodology is based on the 2010 state delegate surveys discrepancy between men and women; surprisingly, a similar discrepancy was found among the delegates who were available and willing to be interviewed for this study. The interviewee gender breakdown consists of five females and nine males, despite the randomly selected twelve males and twelve females.  When divided into the three stratified groups, it is group three (the all female delegate precincts) that has the least participation. Only one out of the eight interviewees was available in the limited interview time. (See Graph 1 below.) The absence of these desired perspectives is a disappointing finding, yet perhaps this noteworthy deficiency serves as an equally telling result.

Graph 1
Delegate Random Sample

figure 1

As the interviewer, I originally fell prey to the cultural assumption that if I were to call during the normal work hours, I should contact the female delegates because they would be available at home. Yet after calling all twelve female delegates during the day, not one of them was home. In fact, one call was even answered by the delegate’s husband who promptly informed me his wife was still at work. [7] From this cue, I tried again to make the calls in the evening. This time I ran into the scenario of another woman who had recently returned home and was unavailable to interview because she had to get dinner on the table. [8] These anecdotes should not be applied generally to every female delegate, but they show a balancing act that exists between the home and other pursuits for women that affect everything from political participation to this paper’s substance.

If the result of this balancing act was that women were merely too busy to participate at all in politics, then the delegate gender discrepancy would most likely not have a significant relationship with cultural or structural barriers. However, like Magleby’s research in the 1990s, the majority of interviewees stated their caucuses had at least 50% women in attendance. (See Graph 2 below.) All female interviewees and five of the male interviewees reported at the minimum the caucus gender attendance was 50/50. The four male interviewees who reported their caucuses had less than 50% female attendance came from three precincts in the all male delegate group. Analysis on a group level (according to the earlier stratifications) reveals that while female caucus attendance may influence how many women attempt to be delegates, it does not have a significant influence on how many women actually become delegates. For example, the combined interview data for group one (all male delegate precincts) shows that when the caucus attendees were at least 50% female, roughly 30% of the people who attempted to be delegates were women. Conversely, the precincts in group one that reported less than 50% female caucus attendance had fewer women attempt to be delegates, less than 25% overall. Yet in both cases, no women were selected as delegates. This is particularly relevant because the precinct majority in the Provo/Orem sample belong in group one (49% of the total 100 precincts). Furthermore, in group two, every interviewee reported that the caucus attendance was at least 50% female. When asked how many women attempted to be delegates, the responses ranged from one to at least half of the contenders. Yet in each group two precinct, only one woman was selected to be a delegate. [9] According to this sample, there are structural limitations at work that result in limited female inclusion no matter how many women run for the delegate position in each precinct.

Graph Two

figure 2

Another telling result came from measuring the number of attendees at the caucus the interviewees knew. Eighty percent of the female delegates claimed to know at least half of those in attendance and sixty percent felt like they knew almost everyone there. For males, however, only thirty percent felt they knew at least half of the caucus attendees, while the rest of the male interviewees claimed to know very few in attendance. This is important when coupled with the question asked of why the interviewees felt they were selected as delegates. Every female response focused on being selected because they knew the people there. Only one female delegate mentioned that besides her acquaintance with people, the speech she gave also had an influence. [10] In the male delegate sample, conversely, only one man mentioned his relationship with the people at the caucus as a contributing factor to his selection as a delegate. [11] All other male interviewees spoke about their experience, ability to speak out, speech skills, and knowledge of the party as being the primary factors in their selection as a delegate. Roughly sixty percent of the male interviewees said their speech contributed to their success. Whether or not this was actually the case, the gender difference in perception of what contributed to becoming delegates cannot be ignored. There are structural implications that follow when success cases for women rely on knowing people and success cases for men focus on speeches, especially because the speech is what is required and institutionalized. The following anecdotes from two separate interviews emphasize this point.

The first is from an interview with a male delegate who was a BYU student at the time of the caucus. [12] He attended with a woman, also a BYU student, who came with the intention of running to be a delegate. Once at the caucus, the woman felt “like she didn’t have the background and was out of place,” and therefore decided not to run. Her friend – the male interviewee – ran instead and was selected to be a delegate. He said, “she had wanted to run and then she was intimidated by being a female BYU student running against a fifty year old man with experience.” Similarly, another male interviewee [13] discussed how at his caucus only two women were nominated, and, in his opinion, one was not interested and the other was a BYU student who “came across as not very competent or experienced.”  This study is limited in separating the affects of age and gender in these scenarios, but they suggest that experience is paramount in delegate selection.

A possible implication of women becoming delegates largely by knowing attendees instead of relying on institutionalized skills is the delegate versus trustee argument. This debate views delegates as carrying out the will of the people despite their personal views, while trustees follow their own expertise for the supposed good of the people (Fox and Shotts 2007, 1). A female interviewee [14] discussed her desire to become a delegate because she felt like most the people at the caucus were “professional politicos [who] weren’t representing [her] neighborhood.” She told those at the caucus she would take their opinions and thoughts, and if selected, would go to the convention and represent the neighborhood over her own views. Such a notion espouses the idea of representing the people because she knows the people. One of the male interviewees [15] reflected that he felt like the female delegates he met at the convention were there to be “active and involved,” while the male delegates were typically more “motivated by other things and ha[d] ulterior motives.”  To say that women generally assume the “delegate” position and men the “trustee” position exceeds the scope of this study; however, it is a credible theory for future research and is a reminder that gender can affect political outcomes.

Aside from the structural evidences are the cultural effects. The conservative, religious nature of the interviewees was explicitly stated in 71% of the interviews. In ten of the fourteen interviews, the individuals stated supporting the Republican Party because it represents conservatism or aligns with their values. Furthermore, the LDS church was mentioned or implied [16] in eleven of the fourteen interviews (no specific reference was made in two male interviews and one female interview). Of those interviewed, twenty-one percent reported hearing about the caucus at church; fourteen percent specifically mentioned hearing about the caucus over the pulpit. These numbers give an idea of the religious influence on political participation within the community. One male interviewee [17] stated: “The caucus was announced over the pulpit. I like that the LDS church does that, they say ‘Hey, get involved.’”

When it comes to involvement, however, there appears to be an unspoken difference between men and women. As previously mentioned, where a visible religious calling may benefit an LDS man in becoming a delegate at the caucuses, the same does not necessarily hold true for women. A female interviewee from the all-women delegate group explored the idea of political power that may come from a well-known church position. She said: “If a stake president [18] stood up and wanted to run versus me, I think that would be difficult. With candidates, if you can get someone who has been a big church leader that is awesome; not as many women have that going for them.” This is a difficultly that arises when religious culture is dominant within a community; church status can effect political status. Another female interviewee [19] even gave church callings as a reason why more women do not try and run as delegates, stating that “women are very busy taking care of their homes and their children and their church callings” and therefore choose not to be involved. In other words, on a priority list, a political position is trumped by more valued or emphasized obligations, instead of using the other obligations (i.e. a church calling) to gain a political position. This study offers no further insights to how prevalent church leadership within LDS culture affects political success, especially since none of the delegates mentioned their church position as a contributing factor. Yet it is important to note that no men mentioned church positions at all, while it came up in a couple female interviews. Perhaps this is a sentiment primarily felt by women.

The final interview question was designed to specifically ask the interviewees their opinion as to why there were so few female Republican state delegates and whether they think it was by choice or by chance. Their perceptions were carefully coded for cultural or structural reasons to the discrepancy. The most mentioned responses for men were “just by chance/do not see a bias” and “women are less inclined/choose not to turn out.” For women the most common responses were “too busy with family” and “intimidated/lack experience.” The complete male breakdown was as follows: 44% just by chance/do not see a bias; 44% women was less inclined/choose not to turn out; 33% women are too busy in general; 22% intimidated/lack experience. For women, the question breakdown was: 60% women are too busy with family (specifically); 60% intimidated/lack experience; 20% women are too busy in general; 20% long convention. [20] (See Graph Three below.) While the world has always known men and women think differently, there are meaningful implications in these answers.

Graph Three

Final Delegate Interviewee Question Responses
figure 3

First, to feel intimidated or lacking in experience is a structural problem. One female interviewee [21] said women “may feel like they can’t do what is required or don’t know enough to fulfill the obligation…There’s quite a bit of intimidation – men don’t let those things worry them, but women do.” She followed these reflections by discussing how she would recruit women to come and see how the process works; afterwards, they felt like it was something they could do. Yet if women do not have the experience required to give a speech and be selected (because women have systematically been left out of the political arena), then no matter the desire, there will not be more female delegates. A male interviewee [22] interpreted the ‘experience obstacle’ as “women are happy to be supportive, but they don’t want to be in the arena.” Another male interviewee [23] commented, “Women don’t want to take the time to spend to get all the information and all that.” These generalizations justify the gender gap and reiterate that women do not have the necessary political experience to represent their caucus. Female delegates, on the other hand, were quick to interpret such trends as being too busy, especially with family. This structural problem can also be affected culturally - in a culture that places such an emphasis on women in the home, it is structurally limiting for a woman to do just that and then be perceived as lacking experience.

Yet most significantly from the final responses is that none of the female delegates felt that the limited number of women is by chance or that no bias exists. Conversely, none of the male delegates mentioned the family in any of their responses. The female delegate emphasis on family reflects LDS culture expectations. The male delegate perception that there is no bias or women do not care to be delegates – alongside no mention of the home/family - shows obliviousness to female adherence to LDS cultural norms. The danger of such obliviousness is that men remain structurally in charge of the Republican Party; not seeing the problem means the delegate gender discrepancy has little hope of changing.

Some may argue, is there a need for change? How important is it that delegate representation is gender skewed? Feminist scholars argue that if half the population has limited involvement, then the decisions made by the governing structure lack legitimacy (Burell 1994, 6). Furthermore, when women are included it may “change the way government works through distinct operating styles and different ways of conceptualizing problems” (Burell 1994, 153). The current delegate discrepancy means that the people ultimately electing Utah’s leaders do not benefit from a balance of gender perspectives. This theory presents the idea that with more female delegates, the Utah political outcomes could be different. At the least, the outcomes would be more representative.

Few female delegates also affect what political scientists David Campbell and Christina Wolbrecht have titled the Role Model Effect. Through their research, Campbell and Wolbrecht found that the more visible women are in politics, the more likely adolescent girls are to indicate a desire to be politically active (2006). Without many women in the most locally representative political position, future generations will be affected. This especially holds true in a community where women highly value teaching the family – political participation is perhaps best taught through example. Each interviewee was asked what led them to feel the way they do about political participation; fifty percent responded because of their parents/how they were raised. A male interviewee [24] said: “My parents, especially my mom, were very active all my life in political endeavors – seeking out good candidates, studying the issues, getting involved, and speaking out about things. My mother did that all my life; she said you can’t just sit by the wayside and throw rocks.” The measure of a mother’s political example is hard to obtain, but future research should consider the level of mother political involvement and level of offspring political apathy, especially within the Mormon community.

A final implication of these findings is that perhaps LDS culture has “gendered” political leadership. This research is not suggesting that Utah LDS women are required to stay in the home or should be looked down upon for choosing to stay in the home, but instead comments on the cultural expectation that LDS women focus on the home over other obligations. This could be a reason why more women vote or more women attend caucuses, yet so few are state delegates. Furthermore, since religion drives the culture, it is possible that people within the community feel that political leadership should mirror church leadership. Experience gained through church callings (that are not available to women) may create a persona of experience, ability, and leadership that women struggle to compete with, thus creating a certain level of intimidation.  Again, it does not matter if a woman chooses to stay in the home or not; what does matter is if she is penalized for lacking experience or seen as apathetic towards politics – and thus underrepresented - because of that choice. Since the culture places such an emphasis on women in the home, this therefore creates a cultural barrier resulting in few female Utah Republican state delegates. The structural and cultural limitations thus play off one another resulting in the Utah political gender gap in the Republican Party.

Burrell, Barbara C. A Woman's Place Is in the House. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1994.

Campbell, David E., and Christina Wolbrecht. "See Jane Run: Women Politicians asRole Models for Adolescents." The Journal of Politics 68, no. 2 (May 2006): 253-247.

Campbell, David E., and J. Quin Monson. "Dry Kindling: A Political Profile ofAmerican Mormons." In From Pews to Polling Places: Faith and Politics in the American Religious Mosaic, by J. Matthew Wilson, 105-129. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 2007.

Campbell, David E., and J. Quin Monson. "Following the Leader? Mormon Voting on Ballot Propositions." Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 42, no. 4 (2003): 605-619.

Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy. Results of the May 2010 Utah Republican State Delegate Survey. Utah Voter Poll, Provo: Brigham Young University, 2010.

Chadwick, Bruce A., and Dean H. Garrett. Women's Religiosity and Employment: The LDS Experience. Vol. XII, in Latter-Day Saint Social Life: Social Research on the LDS Church and its Members, by James T. Duke, 401-423. Provo: Religious Studies Center Brigham Young University, 1998.

Fox, Jeffrey C. "A Typology of LDS Sociopolitical Worldviews." Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 42, no. 2 (2003): 279-289.

Fox, Justin, and Shotts, Kenneth, W. “Delegates or Trustees? A Theory of Political Accountability.” http://www.yale.edu/leitner/resources/docs/delegates.pdf. New Haven: Yale University, 2007.

Magleby, David B., and H.E. "Bud" Scruggs. "Delegates as Trustees: A Study of the 1992 Utah Neighborhood Party Caucuses." Annual Meeting of the Western Political Science Association. Pasadena: Brigham Young University, 1993. 1-41.

Monson, J. Quin, and Scott Riding. "Social Equality Norms for Race, Gender, and Religion in the American Public During the 2008 Presidential Primaries." The Transformative Election of 2008 Conference. Columbus: Ohio State University, 2009. 1-31.

Swers, Michele L. The Difference Women Make. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2002.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Family: A Proclamation to the World. Salt Lake City, September 23, 1995.

Utah Foundation. "The 2010 Utah Priorities Survey of Party Delegates and Voters."
Utah Foundation. April 13-20, 2010.
http://utahfoundation.org/img/pdfs/rr692-full.pdf (accessed February 24, 2011).

Wald, Kenneth D., and Allison Calhoun-Brown. Religion and Politics in the United States. 6th Edition. New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2011.




  1. What would you say are among the top three reasons why you attended the caucus? Do you feel it a civic duty to attend? Did you feel it was a civic duty to be a delegate? What led you to feel that way about political participation?
  2. In one or two sentences, what draws you to the Republican Party?
  3. How did you hear about attending the caucus? Have you attended in the past?

        (Did you hear about it through the media? At a neighborhood function?
        Through church participation?)

  1. What proportion of the people at the caucus did you know? Where did you know them from?

             (As in neighborhood activities, school functions, work, church?)

  1. Did you come to the caucus hoping/wanting to be a delegate? Did you come to support someone wanting to be a delegate? Who were they? Were they selected?
  2. In your opinion, what contributed to you being selected as a delegate?

           (Leadership skills? Well known in the neighborhood, in the schools, or at

  1. In the caucus meeting, how were people selected to be delegates? Was there any competition to become a delegate?
  2. At your caucus meeting, what percentage of the people who wanted to be a delegate were women? What percentage of those attending were women? Overall, there were few female delegates selected for the Republican Convention - do you think this was a conscious choice or by chance? And why do you think that is? (Would you say it is something about this area?)



[1] The official title of the church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. However, the church is often referred to as the LDS church, or the Mormons, for short. These shortened titles will be used throughout the paper. [Back to manuscript].

[2] Chadwick and Garrett’s sample pool came from women within Utah Valley. Utah Valley includes the specific regions addressed in this paper. [Back to manuscript]

[3] A Mormon ward is a congregation of LDS church members. Wards are typically divided by geographical region. [Back to manuscript]

[4] While not all the delegates in this third group were women, the randomly chosen precincts did happen to be all female. [Back to manuscript]

[5] The majority of precincts only have two delegates, although there are some who have up to five delegates. In this case, the first two delegates on the list were contacted, and if one would not respond, the next delegate on the list would be contacted instead. [Back to manuscript]

[6] Generally, the creator of the study would train two coders to comb through the interviews for the relevant information. This eliminates bias that comes with knowing the purpose and intent of the study. [Back to manuscript]

[7] Delegate from group two. [Back to manuscript]

[8] Delegate from group two. [Back to manuscript]

[9] Unfortunately, group three is not included in the analysis here due to its particularly small final sample size. [Back to manuscript]

[10] Delegate from group two. [Back to manuscript]

[11] Delegate from group one. [Back to manuscript]

[12] Delegate from group two. [Back to manuscript]

[13] Delegate from group one. [Back to manuscript]

[14] Delegate from group two. [Back to manuscript]

[15] Delegate from group one. [Back to manuscript]

[16] This includes references such as: BYU, the church, the ward, and the priesthood. [Back to manuscript]

[17] Delegate from group one. [Back to manuscript]

[18] A stake president is a male church position within the LDS church that serves as the ecclesiastical leader over a wide geographical area. [Back to manuscript]

[19] Delegate from group two. [Back to manuscript]

[20] Interviewees were allowed to give more than one response. [Back to manuscript]

[21] Delegate from group two. [Back to manuscript]

[22] Delegate from group two. [Back to manuscript]

[23] Delegate from group one. [Back to manuscript]

[24] Delegate from group one. [Back to manuscript]

Full Citation for this Article: Zirkle, Rachel F. (2011) "A Gendered Zion?: A Study of the 2010 Utah Republican Delegate Gender Gap," SquareTwo, Vol. 4 No. 3 (Fall), http://squaretwo.org/Sq2ArticleZirkleUtahRepublicans.html , access date [give access date].

Would you like to comment on this article? Thoughtful, faithful comments of at least 200 words are welcome. Please submit to SquareTwo.

COMMENTS: 0 Comments